Sunday, March 15, 2015

AntiCurrent Video Archives Vol 2- Urban Struggle: The Battle for the Cuckoos Nest

This is the second edition of the " Video Archives" a collection of rare, out of print, or unreleased videos that I've chose to release through my blog. Click here to view a list of all past releases.

Urban Struggle:
Article On Cuckoo's Nest
Believe it or not, once upon a time, Punk Rock was as dangerous as it was interesting.

This release covers one of the best Punk Rock documentaries ever released: "Urban Struggle: The Battle for the Cuckoos Nest". This 1981 film is an unabashed look into the dawn of West Coast American Hardcore Punk-Rock and how the "powers-that-be" fought so hard against it. It chronicles the Costa-Mesa based club "The Cuckoos Nest" and it's owner Jerry Roach during his long-going fight with local authorities trying to shut his club down. Unfortunately, he fought the law, and the law won.

Featured throughout this are performances and interviews from quintessential punk bands such as Black Flag (in my personal favorite era with Henry Rollins), The Vandals (Stevo years), T.S.O.L., The Circle Jerks, and more.

Bootleg History:
Bootleg VHS cover
Legend has it that this documentary was aired on a local cable access channel at the time, and someone recorded it from TV. This sole recording is what birthed the generations and generations of bootlegs that came from it. Despite a lack of official release, "Urban Struggle" has long been traded in West-Coast based record stores, and that's where I had my first interaction with it. I found my VHS copy while working at Black Hole Records in Fullerton CA, and immediately fell in love with it. Not only is it an amazing document of music history, it also serves as an amazingly executed "us versus them" tale of authority meeting counter-culture. Coming in at only 38 minutes, this flick has as much heart, soul, and fight as anything Alex Gibney is putting out today, and that's saying a hell of a lot. My extreme compliments to director Paul Young.

Why It Hasn't Been Released:
The reason for the film never being professionally released is due to a long-ongoing conflict between Jerry Roach (who insists it's his product because he paid for and produced the movie) and Paul Young (a then local-area film student who insists it is his body of work and that Roach didn't actually contribute anything other than time and access). Which of these two is correct? Well, I sure as hell wasn't there so I won't begin to speculate* other than to say that they both are very passionate about the other being full of shit. For what incredibly little it's worth on the subject, Roach was nothing but extremely kind to me on Facebook and Young didn't accept my friend-request :-( or email (though I likely had the wrong email address). If you care to read more on the subject of Roach Vs. Young, OCWeekly did a great write-up of it HERE.

* What I will speculate on is the fact that the release could potentially be held up due to Black Flag's Greg Ginn having the reputation of being an enormously greedy dick. I'm told that's a big reason that the amazing "Decline of Western Civilization Vol 1" has never been released. Never met the guy personally, but that film needs a professional re-release and fuck him IF that is true.

Docs that pull from Urban Struggle
Unfortunately for us, this battle has led to the documentary never getting a full, professional release. Even so, extensive segments of it have been used for other punk-rock documentaries such as:

Clockwork Orange County: an insightful documentary that is extremely hard to watch due to the incredibly poor production-value that went into it.
American Hardcore: a documentary that I cannot recommend highly enough. Amazing interviews, amazing production value, done with much love and knowledge of the genre.

This Release:
The Cuckoos Nest Newspaper article
Newspaper Clipping
As I stated, I recently I got in touch with Jerry Roach (who was incredibly kind to me in response to my long-winded questions) to attempt to get the best quality version of this possible. He was willing to give me access to an original print, so I immediately got to work about researching the prices to telecine the documentary into HD. I was extremely excited and was just about to pull the trigger when the local scanning companies got back to me with a $1200 figure to scan the 16mm film. As much as I would LOVE to spend the money on this, at the moment I cannot justify spending that kind of loot to post something for free on my blog. Perhaps one day.

After trading and re-trading various digital, DVD, and video versions of this, I finally found the cleanest copy I've seen off of a documentary torrent-based trading forum. However, this still had VHS color artifacts, tracking lines, was interlaced, and the black and white levels were all over the place. So I ingested the flick into After Effects, up-res'd it to 720p, de-interlaced the footage, desaturated it, added a slight sharpening filter, fixed the wrong aspect ratio native to the DVD, and adjusted the black and white levels to where to where I felt the footage shined. Every version I've ever seen of this (other than the trailer) is in stark, high-contrast black and white, so I made the blacks deep, and popped the whites out just as much as I could.

Final Word:
I wish this film would be professionally cleaned up and re-released. The second it does I'll happily delete the video (and if it's monetized that's because of a copyright claim by Black Flag, not me) and purchase a proper copy. But at the moment? This flick needs to be seen by anyone with interest, so please, enjoy.

Friday, March 6, 2015

My Appendix Has Declared My Body No Longer Inhabitable...Who Could Blame it?

Warning: This Post was written under the heavy influence of morphine.

Middletown Regional Hospital
During the ages of 8-12 I was hospitalized about 3-5 times a year due to my asthma and during that time I became well acquainted with the staff and surroundings of Middletown Regional Hospital. As a kid, I weirdly looked forward to it since they had a Sega Genesis that they would let you play, and seeing as how I only had an old NES, that was enough to excite me. Honestly, with all things considered, I don't really mind hospitals too much since I've spent so much time in them.

I always assumed the next time I was to be hospitalized would be due to an accident on my motorcycle. I'm a great rider, don't get me wrong, but as the old adage goes: There are two types of riders, those that have been down and those that will go down. At the moment I'm in the latter camp, thus I've always had premium motorcycle insurance, but...

I've spent the last 8 years without medical insurance (much to the discontentment of my mother) however once Liv and I got married, she made it her mission in life to find us the best insurance possible so that I could finally get on my regulatory meds for my asthma (that totaled about $220 a month without insurance). So she rallied the support of her parents and my mother behind my back, and had them help flip the bill for insurance. I was furious that she would go behind my back and talk to others about my well-being, and I viewed it as a breach of trust. Why? Because I'm a too proud idiot a lot of the time. 

Liv's been up in Ojai the last few weeks acting as production-secretary on a movie (and kicking ass at it) so I've been using the time to get a lot of writing done. Unfortunately, for me to sit in a room, by myself for hours and hours on end is not something I can do without the assistance of some type of substance to help me focus. Generally, this is alcohol. So I went on a bit of a bender of sorts, downing about 1/4 a handle of whiskey a night to myself and writing. My body is no stranger to Jim Beam, so I had only very slight hangovers in the morning and little else... until Thursday morning.

Wed. night activities
Thursday morning at 5AM I woke up in agonizing pain. If being on fire is a 9-level pain, this was an 8. So I laid in my bed for four hours, rolling around in searing, cramping pain hoping for it to go away on its own, It didn't. Out of desperation I was trying anything, and downed an entire bottle of Pepto-Bismol. When that didn't work, I convinced myself that if I could just take a shit (the pain was similar to that of the moments before diarrhea) I would again be fine. 

That's when my roommate knocked on the door to see if I could work on a project that day. He opened the door to discover me laying on the bathroom floor in my t-shirt and underwear attempting to make myself puke in desperation for anything to help. At that moment, I had convinced myself in my heart of hearts, that if I could only take a shit, everything in life would return to normal. So with a clouded mind full of pain, I begged him to go buy me an enema so that I could expel the contents of my stomach, At first he was reluctant, but the sight of me begging him half naked from the bathroom floor convinced him to do it.

Half hour later J.C. delivered a box with two enemas, wished me luck, and went to work as I got down to the deed. I read the instructions, got down naked on my hands and knees, inserted a cold plastic water-bottle up my ass, and squeezed the contents in. The process itself wasn't as bad as it sounded, but for me to get onto our small bathroom floor in the level of pain I was enduring was nearly impossible. I sat there on my knees, ass to god, and maintained the liquid inside me as long as I could. I then fumbled to the toilet, and although the water came out... nothing else did. So, I figured what the hell, I have two anyway, and I repeated the entire process again with the other enema.

Quickly running out of options and realizing that I must have actually hurt my body with alcohol consumption I looked at WebMD and attempted to self-diagnose my problem. Nausea? Check. Cramping pain? Check. Confusion? Triple check. The proposed-results horrified me, it was acute pancreatitis, a result of overdoing ones limits of drinking. I laid there, horrified that I may never be able to drink again and began to cry. As I did, I decided that if the pain wasn't any better in an hour, I was going to go to the hospital. Having time to kill and being me, I figured what the hell? Might as well distract myself. So I pulled up a website and jerked off for a half-hour in what was one of the least pleasing bouts of self-pleasure ever. 

In the midst of a painful afterglow, I knew that my time was up and I had to get professional help, so I lumbered myself into the shower, and sat there for 10 minutes unable to move due to my stomach's condition and attempted to clean myself as much as I could. I dried myself off, called my ever-dependable buddy Andrew, and told him I needed a hospital. He arrived ten minutes later with his wonderful girlfriend Ellyn, and away we went,

The ER
We arrived, Ellyn got me checked in, and we sat there enduring the emergency waiting room. ER's have to be the great equalizer in life as no one is there unless they have to be, and people from all walks of life are treated with the same disdain. I sat down next to a kid who insisted his chair was a drum-kit, watched Jeopardy, and waited. Eventually they took me back, I explained my symptoms and the woman agreed (after accusing me of being on drugs a dozen times), that my drinking days were over. The ER was overcrowded and no rooms were available, so the male nurse escorted me back to a section of the hallway that was to be mine for the next 8 hours. During said escort, the small little man made it a point to rub my nose in the fact that alcohol is a bad thing no less than 8 times in 8 different ways, thinking himself some type of holy messenger for those of us that were never told that excess can hurt you. Asshole.

The doctor eventually came and gave me the best news of my life, the location of my pain combined with a very heavily increased white blood-cell count meant that the culprit was NOT my liver or my pancreas, but was in fact, likely appendicitis! After he finished being wholly confused as to why I would celebrate such a thing, he then instructed me that I was to take a CT scan, which to me, screamed money lost. I argued that I could possibly be fine and there was no way in hell I was paying $1200 for some fancy x-ray. I asked for a form to release myself from care against orders, and Andrew, my amazing friend began yelling at me. "Listen you idiot, if it ruptures in you you'll be admitted for two weeks, how much do you think that will cost? Moron, get the damn thing." Thats when the doctor ganged up on me as well, grabbed my appendix and squeezed on the area making me squeel like a little girl. "That's not normal, listen to your friend."

My room
So I called my mom and asked her advice. Evidently, the insurance that my wife picked out was platinum and it covers nearly everything known to man, thus, the scan was $80. I'm a fucking idiot. The insurance that my parents-in-law, my mother, and my wife all bitched to me about getting was the same thing that was going to let me discover whether or not I'm about to have an organ explode. I got scanned, and they promptly diagnosed me with an about to burst appendix.

On the way out of the ER to be admitted into standard care, I passed the male nurse that gave me the 5 minute lecture about how I live my life, and stopped him. "Good news man! It wasn't the booze! It was just an appendicitis, I can still drink!" He stood, staring open-mouthed at me. "But I appreciate the lecture man, thanks!" They wheeled me past him and I cackled in a morphine ridden haze.

Andrew and Ellyn
Andrew and Ellyn sat with me all damn day. Andrew gave me advice, yelled at me when I was being an idiot, and made fun of all of the doctors with me. Ellyn memorized every doctors name we talked to, took care of all of my paperwork, and acted as my mother until Liv could get down from Ojai. They wheeled me into my little room, Matt and Sarah came to visit, and we all sat around laughing at what a fucking idiot I am. Eventually, they left and it was just Liv and I, I held her for a while, insisted I was going to be totally fine, and then somehow convinced her, though I was in extreme amounts of pain, that having sex with me was a good idea and we got down in the bathroom.

Blessed is a dumb fucking word, it implies that you are a victim of not having free-will, and that God has designed the things and people that are in your life, so I won't use that. I surround myself with good people that I would break my back to help out at any given point, but I am fortunate enough to have picked people that are willing to do the same for me. So thank you Andrew, Ellyn, Liv, Mom, Peter (father-in-law), Guee (mother-in-law), Matt, and Sarah for being amazing people who I don't deserve. And a special thanks to J.C. for enduring the shame of buying me an enema.